OPINION Why are Joe O’Donoghue and the Residential Builders Association funding Proposition D on the San Francisco ballot? Could it have anything to do with the RBA’s rapacious hunt for profits?
You bet, because Prop. D would change the city’s zoning laws to potentially allow private development on 1,600 city parcels that are now protected for public use purposes only.
The RBA has modeled its campaign on the current national trend of winning through fearmongering. That’s why the RBA sent San Francisco voters a slick campaign ad featuring an elderly woman (who is not even a Laguna Honda Hospital patient) with a photoshopped black eye, misleading "facts," and not one word about zoning.
But Prop. D is much more than a giveaway for builders — it’s also an assault on San Franciscans of all ages with psychiatric disabilities. It perpetuates stereotypes about people with such disabilities by suggesting that individuals with a primary psychiatric diagnosis are violent. Studies have consistently shown that people with mental illness are not any more likely than members of the general public to commit acts of violence.
If proponents had wanted to keep dangerous patients out of Laguna Honda, they would have proposed banning people with a history of prior violence — the best predictor, by all accounts, of future violence.
Instead, Prop. D guarantees that the stigma of mental illness will continue to dissuade people from seeking help. And it does absolutely nothing to increase safety for LHH residents.
What Prop. D does do is violate nine state and federal laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act, which ban discrimination on the basis of disability. Prop. D singles out people with mental illness and mandates that "only persons whose need for skilled nursing care is based on a medical diagnosis that is not primarily psychiatric or behavioral shall be admitted" to Laguna Honda. It endangers more than $100 million dollars in federal funds San Francisco receives each year, since that money is conditioned on city compliance with nondiscrimination laws.
Prop. D would force the eviction of Laguna Honda residents who have age- or HIV-related dementia. The city would be forced to transfer those residents to institutions in other counties, far from family and friends, at an annual cost of $27 million dollars. Moreover, Prop. D puts a Planning Department official in charge of making health care and admissions decisions.
All of this is why nurses, health care workers, and public health officials are opposing Prop. D, as are the members of the city’s Community Alliance of Disability Advocates and the Human Services Network, representing more than 100 organizations serving people with disabilities and those in need of all ages in San Francisco.
The RBA’s campaign for Prop. D is so misleading that one of its major proponents, the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, rescinded its endorsement when the members discovered the RBA’s lies about Prop. D.
Don’t fall for the RBA’s exploitation of LHH residents for the sake of profits. Support the city’s disability rights community. Vote no on Prop. D. SFBG
Belinda Lyons is the executive director of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco. This op-ed is also endorsed by Steve Fields, cochair of the San Francisco Human Services Network; Bill Hirsh, executive director of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel; and Herb Levine, executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center.